Frequently Asked Questions - Beekeeping Practices
Have your hive ready – woodenware onsite, hive body, bottom, cover, frames all assembled, foundation embedded, feeder ready - before the package bees arrive. Be sure the hive has been provided with honey or sugar syrup for feed. You can also install a comb of honey if you have some set back for that purpose. Syrup should be mixed at a 1:1 sugar to water ratio by weight. That’s 8 pounds of sugar to 1 gallon of water.
Langstroth:The entrance of the hive should be reduced to a width of about 2 inches by stuffing grass or newspaper into the entrance slot. You may close the entrance for the first 24 hours so long as daytime temperatures don’t exceed 85 degrees Farenheit and the hive is not in the direct sun. Do not permanently close the entrance because the bees will smother. You may increase the opening within 2-4 weeks.
Top-Bar: We recommend using screen to trap ALL the bees inside the hive (making sure to add feed first) for at least 24to 48 hours. After 24 to 48 hours, open the entrance for 1-2 bees to fly, but don’t make the entrance too large. If you have access to honeycomb or wax, tack it or stick some to one of the top bars to make it more appealing and decrease the chance of absconding.
Take the cover off the package, remove the feed can, we suggest a hive tool or strong magnet, and remove the queen cage. After removing the queen cage, you may cover the opening of the package with the can or the cardboard temporarily until you’ve installed the queen and are ready to hive the package. Look in the queen cage to make sure the queen is alive. If the queen is dead, telephone us immediately for a replacement.
Remove the cork from the candy end only of the queen cage and hang the queen cage, candy end down, between two of the center frames or combs in your hive. The bees must have access to the screen on the queen cage. You can increase the pace of the queen emergence by poking a small hole in the candy with a twig or toothpick or nail. Don’t poke the queen! At this point, make sure you have feed in the feeder and then you may remove four of the frames from one side of the hive body and place package of bees into the hive with can removed, then replace the lid or cover of the hive and the bees will crawl out. You may return later that day or the next to remove the empty shipping cage and replace the combs / frames that you removed earlier. At this point its best not to disturb the hive for at least a week except to refill the feeder.
Another method for hiving a package is to remove and install the queen as described above, put syrup in the feeder, then turn the shipping cage bottom up, over the hive and shake the bees into the hive making sure some of them fall between the frames where the queen cage is hung. Gently cover the hive, taking care not to crush the bees and do not disturb the hive again (except to briefly open the cover and refill the feeder) for at least a week. After one week the queen should be out of her cage and should have eggs (actually they’re embryos) laid in one or two combs. If you have started the hive on foundation only, the bees should be drawing out one or two sheets of the foundation and there should be some embryos (most beekeepers call them “eggs” in some of the freshly drawn comb. Eggs are very hard to see in new wax, so look carefully and bring your magnifying glass if you don’t have sharp eyes. Starvation of the bees is the biggest hazard to successful establishment of the package of bees. Continue to feed them, taking care not to get robbing started, until you are sure the bees are producing enough honey to maintain themselves.
Have your hive ready to go before the nuc arrives. Be sure to have prepared sugar syrup for feed. The entrance of the hive should be reduced to a width of about an inch or two by stuffing grass or newspaper into the entrance slot. Do not close the entrance completely because the bees might smother. There is brood inside the nuc, (unlike a package) so the bees will need to thermoregulate the interior of the colony to 91-92 degrees Farenheit right after the introduction.
Remove 4 frames of foundation or combs from the hive body (you need to make room for four frames from the nuc). Put syrup in the feeder. Wear a hat and veil and light your smoker. Take the lid off of the nuc. Carefully place the 4 frames of brood, bees, and the queen into the hive body – one or two combs at a time. Be very careful to not smash the queen or leave her behind in the bottom or sides of the nuc box. The 4 frames of brood/bees should be no more than one comb away from the feeder if you are using an in-hive feeder.
If there are any bees left in the nuc, mist them with water or sugar water and bang them out of the box and into the hive. Close the hive.
In 3 days to one week, enlarge the entrance slightly (2-4 inches), add more feed, and check for eggs to make sure the queen was successfully transferred to the colony. The eggs look like a miniature grain of rice positioned vertically in the bottom of the cells. If you do not have any eggs please phone us immediately.
Warm 1 gallon of water, remove from heat and mix in 8 lbs. of granulated sugar until blended completely. Let cool and pour into feeder.
BeeWeaver package bees are 3 pounds of bees with a young, mated queen. The beekeeper can put them in any type of hive (Top Bar Hive, Langstroth Hive, Observation Hive...). Package bees must be fed sugar syrup as soon as they are hived until the bees stop feeding on the syrup because they are building from scratch. BeeWeaver package bees can be picked up from any of our pick-up locations in Texas or shipped directly to the customer via UPS. BeeWeaver package bees are less expensive then the BeeWeaver nucs, but they are not as established as a nuc and do not have brood, so package bees require more time before baby bees begin to emerge to replenish older foragers.
BeeWeaver nucs are 4 deep frames of bees, brood, honey, & pollen. A young, mated queen is laying in the nuc. The beekeeper can put them in a deep hive body of a Langstroth hive – the combs from a nuc will not fit in a top-bar hive unless you cut them into pieces. The BeeWeaver nuc also includes an in-hive feeder and small hive beetle trap. Our nucs are splits (also called divides or increase) made from established colonies. Four combs from an existing colony or colonies are removed from the original hive and placed in a plastic nuc box with a lid for transport, and a new queen is introduced into the nuc. The nuc will build up quickly if fed, and is less vulnerable to starving, absconding, or robbing than a package. The nuc is more expensive then a BeeWeaver package, and it is available only by pick up at our shop or other Texas locations.
It is normal (unfortunately) to have up to an inch of dead bees in the bottom of the package. These bees are banged out of boxes and poured through funnels before the hazards of transport. We put extra bees in to cover expected loss in transit. In the unfortunate event of a dead or damaged shipment please take photos and email the details to: email@example.com. All dead or damaged shipments must be reported within 24 hours of arrival. Again, send me a picture of your whole package from the side before hiving it, if you feel it arrived damaged.
Healthy package with normal loss from transit. Hive the bees.
Damaged package with some excess bee loss during transit. Hive the bees
after taking a photo and contact us. If it looks like this, then your package still has plenty of bees to successfully start a new colony (unless your queen has been damaged or has died in transit). Your package may take a few days or a week longer to build up to full strength.
Severely damaged package. The queen is most likely still alive, but as many as 2/3 to 3/4 of the bees died in transit. Install the queen and hive the live bees anyway and we will replace the bees. If you can salvage these bees, then when they join with the replacement package, you will have extra bees to get your hive going even faster.
Completely dead package with a small chance the queen is alive. We will replace the entire shipment.
Marking a queen means that we put a small, colored dot on her back so she is easier to spot in the hive. Because a different color is used each year, it is also an easy way to know how old your queen is. Many beginners find this to be helpful. Clipping means that we clip one of her wings to prevent her from flying away. Some things to keep in mind - workers will sometimes clean off the dot from the queen and a clipped queen can still crawl out of the hive, although this is not common.
Please note – BeeWeaver Apiaries is not responsible for queens that arrive alive but are not installed immediately.
If you are going to install your queen within the next couple of days, the best thing to do is to make her comfortable. Give her and her attendants a small drop of water. Store her in a dark, cool, place away from ants and pesticides. Keep in mind, the longer you wait to install the more chance there is that she will die. It is far better to install a queen in the rain than it is to wait a day or two for sunshine. If the attendants start to die, hive
If you need over 4-5 days before you install your queen(s), and have access to a colony of bees, then a queen bank is the best option. You can make a make shift queen bank by placing your caged queen(s) in a spare super in an existing hive that is either queenless or has a queen excluder. The queen excluder will prevent an existing queen from killing those in cages, but will allow workers to tend to them. This is not a permanent home for queens, but they should do fine for a week or so until you can install them in their own hives.
Most of the time when a queen flies away, she will come back. Queens are not made for flying far distances, as they have a huge abdomen that weighs them down. Without worker bees around them, they are unable to take care of themselves. Ideally the queen will be with her package bees for at least 3-4 days before she is released, but they might accept her before that, too. If your queen flies away on you, just wait a few days and check the hive to see if she's back. If you can't find her right away, don't worry. She may be hiding near the bottom, laying away. If you check, and you're still not sure, give it a few weeks. If there is a lack of fresh brood, you may have to order another queen and install her instead.
There are lots of reasons why a hive won’t accept a new queen. Maybe your hive already has a queen, but she's just not laying eggs. If so, you need to find her and kill her. If you’re positive that your hive is queen-less, maybe the new queen has not been with the hive long enough when she is released out of her cage. This could contribute to them rejecting her. Sometimes when a hive has been queen-less for a while, a worker might start laying eggs. Since workers do not mate, they do not lay fertile eggs and laying workers will eventually lead to the destruction of your hive.
Laying workers are not that common, but they happen. Laying workers happen when a worker bee starts laying unfertilized eggs in the absence of a queen. Because workers are not mated, their offspring turn into drones and the hive will not survive. It is very hard to put a queen in a hive with laying workers. Because of this, if you introduce a new queen into the hive the bees will probably ball her and kill her as if she was an intruder. If you see a weird laying pattern, multiple eggs in one cell, and lots of drone brood, you may have laying workers.
Though it is hard to get rid of laying workers, you could try a couple of things. The best thing to do is to introduce an older laying queen from another hive on a comb of her own brood with her adhering daughters. Most of the time, the laying workers will cease laying and accept an older laying queen as the head of the colony. It helps to have some of the older queen’s own daughters introduced along with her to police the laying workers and devour their eggs – which is one of the mechanisms that suppresses the reproduction of the few laying workers that develop in hives with fertile queens.
There are many different indicators that you need to kill the old queen and install a new one. Two of the biggest reasons are that your hive has become less productive or your queen has a poor breeding pattern, producing spotty brood or even laying lots of drone brood and producing few worker broods. Most queens will run out of semen within two seasons of their initial mating, so beekeepers often re-queen as a preventative measure every spring, or at least every other spring (drones result from unfertilized eggs being laid). So, if your queen is getting older, it's probably time to re-queen.
Another reason people re-queen is they have a "hot" hive. If your bees are angry, aggressive, or have become a problem for you and your neighbors, most likely they have a queen that is producing defensive bees. Replacing your queen is the best way to fix the problem.
There are many reasons why bees die all of a sudden. They might be infested with mites, exposed to pesticides, been affected by disease, starvation, freezing temperatures, or have become over-heated. If you don’t think it was any of these contributing factors, than something less common may have been the cause. If your bees die, you can always replace them with a new package in the spring and try again.
If you don’t have a lot of bees in one of your hives (a few frames or less), you can simply add those bees into the hive you want them to assimilate to. If you have two decent sized hives, and feel as though the introduction of new bees will cause them to attack your queen, then you can put newspaper in between two supers and let them eat their way through it.
Probably not, as long as your hive is headed by a BeeWeaver Queen(and so long as there have not been large number of hives perishing from varroa mites in your vicinity) Even highly varroa tolerant bees like ours can be overcome by mites if several hives within flying distance of your hive perish with large varroa infestations. All the mites from the dying and dead hives can end up in your colony if the bees in your hive “rob” the leftover honey and pollen from the dead and dying hives. Please note that you may still see mites in your hive, but BeeWeaver bees are mite tolerant and are resistant to the diseases that mites carry. If you feel you would need to reduce the mite load in your colony we suggest using organic methods - better for the bees, the beekeeper, and the bee world. Please note that some of the our full-strength colonies we sell are headed by Italian queens which are not so mite tolerant as our BeeWeaver queens.
Watch our video: Your First Bees
A. Make sure your hive does not have a queen. Remove the cork from the candy end of the queen cage. For faster introduction, poke a small hole in the candy with a toothpick, twig or nail, taking care not to damage the queen. Wedge the queen cage between two of the center frames or comb with the screen on the cage exposed so that the bees can access the queen through the screen. The bees must also have access to the hole in the candy end of the cage. Be sure the candy end of the cage is slightly lower than the area of the cage occupied by the queen. Take care to make certain that the queen cage is securely embedded in wax. If the cage falls to the bottom of the hive the queen may not survive. The queen must be placed in the part of the hive where the bees are clustered. Close the hive and wait one week before opening it. After one week open the hive. The queen should be out of her cage and she should have eggs laid in one or two of the combs. If she is not out of the cage, release her by taking the screen off.
Hives that have been queenless so long that all of the brood has hatched out do not accept queens very well. If possible, such a hive should be given one or two combs with brood in them from another colony before introducing the new queen. That’s one reason why its easier to be a beekeeper with 2 or 3 hives, rather than only one.
When you are re-queening, you may install the new queen immediately after killing the old one or you may wait as long as four or five days before installing the new queen. We recommend installing a new queen right after killing the old one, though we don’t recommend poking a hole in the candy to accelerate release in this case.
To increase the chances of the new queen being accepted into your hive you may choose to smear wax, honey, and/or propolis onto the screen of the queen cage from the hive you are installing her into. The queen will walk on the hive products and smell more like a hive member than a stranger when she is released.
A push-in cage is the best way to introduce your queen because it allows the queen to start laying eggs immediately and will increase the chances of acceptance. This method requires handling the queen, which must be done with great care. To make a push in cage cut a flat 6 in x 6 in screen wire and fold the screen over at the cuts. Select a comb with emerging brood. Brush the bees off the comb and place the push-in cage over an area of empty cells, a few emerging brood cells and open nectar. Remove the queen from the candy cage and put her under the cage. Do not allow adult bees under the cage with the queen, or at least minimize the number of bees under the case with the queen. Push the cage into the comb about a quarter of an inch (so that the hardware cloth penetrates into the was all the way to the midrib of the comb) allowing the queen to move freely underneath. Be sure the hive bees can't get under the cage. Remove the push-in cage after about four days or whenever the bees are no longer clinging to the cage. If the bees are clinging to the cage it means they have not accepted her yet, and more time is needed before the cage is removed.
The hive receiving the queen must have no laying queen and virgin queen or queen cells present. Ideally, the hive should be queenless for at least 24 hours prior to introduction. The frame with the queen should be placed in the middle of the brood nest (if no brood is present, place in the middle of the cluster).
The colony should be disturbed as little as possible for the next week, while the queen establishes her brood nest.
A. Try these practices:
- Place your hive in a low-traffic area, where people, pets, vehicles are not streaming past the entrance. It is best if hives have about 10-20 feet in front of their entrance for an unobstructed flight path as they fly to and from the hive.
- Always use a well-lit smoker and don’t work the hive just before or during a storm.
- Do not go into the hive more than once every 2 weeks unless necessary.
- Do not wear perfumes, aftershaves, or other fragrances when working bees.
- Do not keep the hive open for more than 15 minutes in most circumstances.
- Always wear protective gear and light-colored clothes when working bees.
If you notice the bees are darting you more and more, try to complete your task, smoke often and close the hive.
There are a few easy steps you can take to reduce your SHB troubles. Place your hive in the sun or nearly full sun. The small hive beetle pupates in the ground outside the hive and the hot sun will bake them. Make sure your hive is queen right and strong. If not, SHB and other pests will take full advantage of it. Using traps (some use vegetable oil) can reduce their population as well. Keep your hive free of places where beetles can hide so the bees can chase them out of their hive... no plastic frames, inner covers, or feeders that give SHB nooks and crannies to hide out. Bait traps can also reduce the population, we do something similar to what is shown in this video and feel it helps. The bees don't touch the bait and it does not fume through the hive. Good luck... Small Hive Beetles are a huge pest.
Bees are very adaptable creatures. Even though the breeding ground for the BeeWeaver breed has mild winters and very hot summers, that does not mean the bee will only do well in this environment. We ship our bees all over the continental US, from coast to coast, and customers from all states return to us time and again for their queen/bee needs. To encourage our breed to be able to adapt to circumstances on their own we do not manipulate/facilitate them other than what's necessary. For instance, we only feed the bees syrup when they are light. We do not give them pollen patties or additional supplements to assist them in building the hive up. They have to learn from their environmental cues (length of day, temperature fluctuation, and plant status) to know when to start/stop laying over the course of a year.
If you live in a climate that is extremely cold in the winter, please see our FAQ about over wintering.
Wind may be one of the biggest issues you face. Nothing chills a hive down more than having -40 degree air blown into every crack and opening. In Vermont, we used those black corrugated hive wraps and they were life-savers for the bees. If you can't find those, black roofing paper, stapled on the hive like a big black present also works great, and breathes well so the hives don't get too moist on the inside, which can lead to water condensing on the cover and dripping onto the bees.
Proper ventilation is key and having a way for water vapor to escape from the hive is very important. Big plastic hive covers are large enough to allow some air circulation, although we always cut upper entrances in them for ventilation and for the bees to get out if they were in deep snow. In Fairbanks, they over-winter indoors because it gets down to 60 or 70 below, but outside of Anchorage, where I live, we rarely see 45 below for more than a few days in a row and the roofing paper is the insulation of choice, mostly because it is readily available. The black helps the hives heat up a little when the sun does come up again.
The other thing I do for cold is I move all my hives close together at the end of the season, preferably on the lee side of a building to block the wind. When they are all lined out in 2 rows, back to back, they can share heat, not unlike apartments share the heat from the neighbor's wall.
Another problem, as I'm sure you know, is getting enough food packed in there while the bees still have time to take it up. In Vermont, we made sure we had at least 100 pounds of feed in the hive to get through until we could check them in April. In Alaska, it's closer to 150 pounds. I rarely lose bees to cold directly, I lose them to starvation in the spring because they had to consume more calories to keep warm than I provided them with. As soon as you've got your honey off for the season, go to Costco and buy enough sugar to start feeding until they are pretty packed. Bring water to a boil and dump as much sugar as will go into solution. You can't make the stuff too thick. Start feeding as early as you can because once it gets cold and they're in their cluster, they are not going to be able to use food that is in the feeder, they must have everything stored in the cells. I've heard of people sprinkling granulated sugar on the top bars in a pinch. Never tried it, probably can't hurt, not sure if it helps, though. I don't rely on it. And all that honey stored in the frames acts as insulation as it absorbs the heat the bees are generating. Empty combs don't insulate so well.
Get the bees condensed into 2 or 2 1/2 supers. Stacked higher than that, they have too hard a time keeping the space warm once their numbers have dwindled. If you're treating for disease or mites, do so during the earlier feedings, so you go into winter with as few parasites or ailments as possible.
If in the past you've found that your bees have had dysentery during the winter, it may be the fault of the honey they are over-wintering on. In Vermont, the aster honey we got in the fall made them quite prone to that during the winter. We'd extract all of it and replace that with sugar and they did much better. In Alaska, we don't have the same problem with the aster, perhaps because we have a lot less of it. I hope this gives you some ideas for how to get your hives through the winter.
Happily, the answer is No! Even the honey from the ancient Egyptian tombs was still edible. Honey can ferment if it is too high in moisture, thus it is important for the beekeeper to let the bees 'dry out' the honey before harvesting. Fermented honey, though, has a strong odor and there is no doubt that something is wrong. If your honey crystalizes or separates this is normal. This honey can be consumed in the crystalized state (try stirring it all together to cream your own honey) or you can gently warm the honey in a pan of warm water to return the honey to its liquid state. Honey does not need refrigerated, but if you choose to do so it will crystalize more quickly. Love the Honey!
The highest cost of beekeeping is the initial investment. If starting 2 hives is cost prohibitive, starting with one is fine. A second hive will mean more labor/time in working bees. Although, it will probably take longer to light the smoker then it does to make a quick queen and strength check. The advantage of starting with 2 hives is if something does go wrong with 1 hive (i.e. queenless or hungry) you have a second hive to share food and/or brood. For beginning beekeepers having a second colony can help them know if something is wrong with the first colony. If a new beekeeper has a queenless colony they may not be aware if it is the only colony they have. However, if they have a queen-right colony beside the queenless colony they will easily notice a difference between the two.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It is up to you to decide what will work best with your apiary.